Belfast Telegraph

Company Snapshot: Nicholls' (Fuel Oils) Ltd

By John Simpson

Greysteel fuel distributor shows it's a slick operator

Nicholls' Fuel Oils is a fuel distributor based in Greysteel, Co. Londonderry with trading interests in Northern Ireland, the Republic and a 50% interest in a UK-registered company, Direct Fuels.

In addition, the parent company has a participating interest in UK-registered Diesel Card International, Fuel Card Management Services, and Fuelplus (UK). It also holds a 50% joint venture interest in 16 other companies, of which 10 are registered in the Republic of Ireland.

In addition, the company holds a 24% stake in a Danish firm which manufactures vending machines.

The main business transactions relate to fuel distribution and the operation of fuel cards.

The turnover of the group, as quoted, includes the turnover of the joint ventures in which the group has interests. In the most recent year, the joint ventures turnover was £236m, leaving £288m recorded within the wholly owned businesses.

The operating profits stated in this presentation are those of the wholly owned subsidiaries and the parent company. Operating profits, at less than 1% of turnover in 2009-10, are a tight margin, having fallen from 1.3% a year earlier.

Pre-tax profits, as stated, including the profits from the joint ventures have also remained at a tight margin on turnover of just over 1%.

The company carries only a modest amount of bank lending at just over £5m at the end of May 2010.

In the two most recent years, the group recorded a positive cash flow on the totality of its businesses in contrast to the modest cashflow deficits noted in the early years of this decade. In 2008-9 dividends of £75,000 were paid to the shareholders. In 2009-10, unusually, a larger dividend of £1.4m was payable.

Employment in the wholly owned parent and subsidiaries rose from an average of 83 in 2008-9 to 89 in 2009-10.